Hearing of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee
Building an Agile Intelligence Community

September 8, 2004

[excerpts on intelligence budget disclosure]


SEN. LIEBERMAN: Thanks, Madam Chairman. Thanks again, gentlemen. One of the more interesting and in some ways important recommendations of the 9/11 commission that hasn't received a lot of public discussion, but is something that this committee will have to reach a judgment on, is their recommendation -- I quote here: "To combat the secrecy and complexity, we have described the overall amounts of money being appropriated for national intelligence and to its component agencies should no longer be kept secret. Congress should pass a separate appropriations act for intelligence defending" -- we defending -- the "broad allocation of how these tens of billions have been assigned among the varieties of intelligence work." So I take it to be their recommendation based on in part what they describe as our failure, Congress's failure, to exercise appropriate oversight of intelligence. I would bet -- though I certainly haven't done a survey -- that the great majority of members of Congress, both houses, couldn't tell you what the bottom-line spending we are doing today on intelligence is, let alone how what appropriations are going to individual agencies. And it's hard to do real oversight, if you don't talk about budgets and accountability and authority, if you don't have those baseline numbers.

Now, obviously -- well, let me say a final word there. I think the commission argues that that will allow Congress and the American people to make judgments about we're giving too much to one agency, not enough to another. Perhaps it will help inform this question that's gone on about whether we've spent too much on technological assets, SIGINT, and not enough on human intelligence. But it will also allow another kind of comparison, which is to compare what we're spending on intelligence with what we are spending on health or agriculture or environmental protection -- that kind of balance.

Obviously -- so I think as a general principle, it's a very interesting and important idea to consider. Obviously none of us want to do that in a way that will compromise our national security. And just before I invite your response, the commission deals with this concern about American enemies learning about our intelligence capabilities by tracking top-line appropriations figures. But they say the answer -- if the top-line figure by itself provides little insight into U.S. intelligence sources and methods. In fact, the government already provides copious information about spending on its military forces, including military intelligence. The intelligence community should not be subject to that much disclosure. But when even aggregate categorical numbers remain hidden, it's hard to judge priorities and foster accountability.

So, Director McLaughlin and then Director Mueller, I'd welcome your counsel to us on this important question.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, this is a difficult question that I think -- there's very divided views on this. I'll give you my personal view. I think we don't keep secrets well enough as a government, so I start with that proposition, given that we're up against an enemy that keeps secrets very well --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and compartments those secrets down to a handful of people in a remote area somewhere in a cave. That said, I come out a little differently on this question. If there is a separate appropriation for the foreign intelligence program, the National Foreign Intelligence Program, as distinct from the current arrangement where that appropriation is buried in the larger Defense Department bill, I think it would make some sense to declassify the overall number for the foreign intelligence program. I would not go so far as to declassify the numbers for the individual agencies. I think that gives too much opportunity for adversaries to understand how we are moving our money from year to year, from technical programs to human source collection, and to other objectives. But establishing an overall number and acknowledging it publicly for the National Foreign Intelligence Program does a couple of things. I think, first, it reinforces responsibility and accountability on those receiving the money, because you can see whether it's going up, down, and so forth. It also does the same thing for Congress, because it's then apparent whether Congress -- I have a phrase in my testimony that talks about constancy of resources. One of our problems over the years is that resources have gone up and down, we've lived on supplementals. Programs that require year-to-year constancy have not had that. And so I think this would be one way to maybe address some of those issues. But I don't think that declassifying the top line would be a major security threat.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: I appreciate that answer.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's my personal view.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Director Mueller, I invite your response, and I suppose specifically on the matter, if I get it rightly, the counterintelligence budget of the FBI is part of the National Foreign Intelligence Program budget. Certainly I would hope that it would be part of what's given now to overall authority to the new NID. Would you have concerns specifically if that number became public?

MR. MUELLER: Let me -- let's see if I can address the two issues.


MR. MUELLER: One is I think you raise a consolidation of a budget that is understandable to persons. In other words, one budget. I myself find the federal budgeting practice an arcane science. I don't purport to have grasped it. But --

SEN. LIEBERMAN: It may be intentionally so. It may not have just --

MR. MUELLER: But putting in one place all elements of the federal intelligence budget makes some sense to me, whether it be in having the NID as that person who has -- is responsible for that, and then having a committee in Congress that is fully -- has transparency into that makes a great deal of sense.

In terms of that portions of it which you then publicize, I think it depends what you ultimately end up with. And it's having a bottom- line figure is a lot different than having certain categories that I think everybody in this room would agree should not be made public. And so --

SEN. LIEBERMAN: How would you feel about the intelligence directorate that you're forming now having its bottom line --

MR. MUELLER: I would have problems in having that publicized. It would give -- it would immediately be perused by our enemies, whether it be terrorists or other countries, in terms of how many agents we have in our counterintelligence program, where they might be, what their support is. I would have real problems on that. I don't think we should be giving out that type of information to our enemies. They'll sit there -- if they peruse the budget figures, they can discern from the budget figures what the implications are, and I think that is something we have to be very concerned about.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Thank you, both. Thanks, Madam Chairman.